Cambridge University forced to ‘decolonise’ its English literature course and put less emphasis on white authors after student demand

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Cambridge University has caved in to a student’s demands to ‘decolonise’ the English curriculum by replacing white authors with black writers.

English Literature professors will be required to ‘ensure the presence’ of Black and Minority Ethnic writers (BME) in their courses.

It follows an open letter from students’ union women’s officer Lola Olufemi, demanding an end to ‘institutional racism’ in the syllabus.

The plans were revealed in minutes of the English Faculty’s Teaching Forum seen by the Daily Telegraph.

Included among the ‘points for action’ was the proposal that academic staff try to ‘actively seeking to ensure the presence of BME texts and topics on lecture lists’.

These staff, working in Subject Group Committees, could also introduce introductory lectures giving the ‘global contexts’ of English literature.

The moves will be greeted Ms Olufemi and the 100 other students who signed her letter.

Ms Olufemi is women's officer at Oxford University Students' Union

Ms Olufemi with Labour MP Diane Abbott

This read: ‘For too long, teaching English at Cambridge has encouraged a “traditional” and “canonical” approach that elevates white male authors at the expense of all others.

‘What we can no longer ignore, however, is the fact that the curriculum, taken as a whole, risks perpetuating institutional racism.’

The plans were criticized by Gill Evans, emeritus professor of medieval theology and intellectual history at Cambridge.

She insisted that they inserting an ‘equal proportion’ of cultures into the syllabus risked ‘losing sight’ of the historical truth that the West controlled much of the worst from the sixteenth century onwards.

Several other student groups have pushed for their universities to ‘decolonise’ the courses on offer.

English Literature professors at Cambridge will be required to 'ensure the presence' of Black and Minority Ethnic writers (BME) in their courses. Pictured: King's College

English Literature professors at Cambridge will be required to ‘ensure the presence’ of Black and Minority Ethnic writers (BME) in their courses. Pictured: King’s College

Earlier this year, students at a University of London college called on white philosophers including Descartes and Kant to be dropped from the syllabus.

The students’ union insisted that ‘the majority of philosophers on our courses’ should be from Africa and Asia.

The students said it was in order to ‘decolonise’ the ‘white institution’ that is their college.

 

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